[News] Brazil’s Disastrous 2018 Presidential Race Teaches Key Lesson For All: Demagogues Thrive Only When Establishments Fail
news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Aug 6 11:06:22 EDT 2018
Brazil’s Disastrous 2018 Presidential Race Teaches Key Lesson For All:
Demagogues Thrive Only When Establishments Fail
Glenn Greenwald <https://theintercept.com/staff/glenn-greenwald/>,
Victor Pougy <https://theintercept.com/staff/victorpougy/>- August 5 2018
_Brazil’s media,_ legal, judicial and corporate factions have spent the
last three years righteously insisting that systemic political
corruption is the nation’s gravest problem. They were so terribly
upset about corruption that, in 2016, they united, with almost no
dissent permitted, in support of the most drastic step a democracy can
take: removal of the elected President
Dilma Rousseff, before her term expired.
That indignation over corruption and criminality was their /pretext/ for
impeachment, not the actual motive, was painfully obvious from the
start. By removing Dilma, they knowingly empowered actual criminals and
gangsters, people whose thieving and mobster behavior make Dilma’s
budgetary tricks look like jaywalking. In the pantheon of organized
criminality that rules post-impeachment Brasília, “pedaladas” – the
pedestrian budgetary maneuver used to justify Dilma’s removal – sounds
so quaint that it’s hard to believe Globo stars and pro-impeachment
centrist functionaries kept a straight face when pretending that it
The career sleaze they installed as President, Michel Temer, then got
caught on tape
ordering the payment of bribes to silence the literal gangster, Eduardo
Cunha, Temer’s party comrade who, as House Speaker, lead the impeachment
proceeding against Dilma and is now in prison
same Congress that removed the elected President with flamboyant
speeches about their disgust for corruption, has spent the last two
years receiving legalized bribes from Temer to protect him from
for his bribery and other crimes, and – bribery tapes and all – keep him
ensconced in the presidential palace.
The fraud of all this is too enormous to express with words, but no
words are needed because of how self-evident it is.
_But now,_ with their behavior in the 2018 election, whatever credible
remnants remained of the ethical masks worn by these media stars and the
oligarchical families that own them
completely eroded. What the Brazilian media is now doing is so extremely
corrupt and so transparently deceitful that – no matter how low your
standards are for judging them – no words suffice to express the
revulsion that it merits.
In the 2018 presidential race, Brazil’s oligarchic press is openly
united behind São Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, the ultimate
establishment figure from the conservative PSDB party. He can be
accurately described to an American audience as a
somewhat more conservative, cautious version of Hillary Clinton: he’s
been around politics for decades, funded by and serving corporate
interests, inoffensively occupying every conceivable office, comfortably
resting in and feeding off of the sleaze and neoliberal corruption that
greases the wheels of Brazil’s political class.
He’s the ultimate guardian of the status quo and the prevailing order. A
candidate so uniquely uncharasmatic on all levels that he’s most often
compared to a cucumber – to the point where Cucumber is his effective
nickname – his last bid for the presidency in 2006 resulted in a
21-point crushing defeat at the hands of Lula. He’s basically Jeb Bush,
but less bold, less exciting and with less popular support.
For good reason, Alckmin’s primary political tactic is hiding. He
doesn’t hold rallies, because nobody, other than those suffering from
insomnia, would want to attend. His quest for power is dependent
exclusively on sketchy backroom deals between power-brokers carried out
in the dark, accompanied by massive amounts of money from the
oligarchical interests he serves – exactly the legalized corruption that
has destroyed Brazilian politics (and, for that matter, American
politics), and that the country’s media pretends to find so objectionable.
For all of 2018, despite the unconcealed love which Brazil’s dominant
media outlets harbor for him, polls have showed Alckmin lingering
pitifully at 6-7%
Just as is true in the U.S., the UK and throughout Western Europe, huge
numbers of voters are so contemptuous of the establishment class that
they will refuse to vote for anyone supported by or associated with them.
With the actual presidential poll leader, former President Lula da
Silva, imprisoned and almost certain to be barred from running, the
three candidates consistently at the top of the 2018 polls are perceived
(rightly or wrongly) as outsiders: the genuinely fascist Congressman
Jair Bolsonaro, who craves a return of military rule and all year long
has maintained a large lead in all Lula-excluding polls; Marina Silva, a
soft-spoken, black, evangelical, socially conservative environmentalist
from the Amazon region; and Ciro Gomes, an extremely shrewd left-wing
career politician who is nonetheless without allies or coalitions
(thanks to a hopelessly fractured left) and has always been and still is
perceived as a rebellious disrupter.
Brazil’s establishment – led, as always, by the huge media outlets
by a tiny group of billionaire families
has spent all of 2018 panicking because, no matter how hard they try to
resuscitate it, the decayed corpse of Geraldo Alckmin has remained lifeless.
_Establishment panic_ last week manifested in one last-ditch effort to
save Alckmin. The Cucumber unveiled a broad new coalition
with numerous other parties, composing what the media is calling the
“centrist” bloc: by which they mean nothing other than “not Lula and not
Bolsonaro.” On Saturday, he announced his Vice Presidential running
mate: Ana Amélia of the far-right “Progressive Party”.
To put it mildly, there is nothing “centrist” about any of this.
Amélia’s party, which would be swept into power by an Alckmin win, was
Bolsonaro’s political home until 2015. Its origins go back to support
for the right-wing military dictatorship
that ruled the country for 21 years, until 1985, as a result of a
U.S.-supported coup in 1964 that forcibly removed the country’s elected
Back then, Amélia was a journalist who wrote in support of the
dictatorship, and was married to a Senator who served under, and was
chosen by, the military rulers. Her current political views would fall
comfortably on the far right end of the political spectrum even in the
new politics of the U.S. and Europe.
Just several weeks ago, after the Workers Party (PT) President gave an
interview to Al Jazeera denouncing Lula’s imprisonment, Amélia went to
the Senate floor and – in an almost perfectly balanced mix of hateful
xenophobia and ignorance – confused and conflated “Al Jazeera” with “Al
Qaeda,” and thus accused the PT President of speaking to terrorists and
inciting the “Islamic Army” against Brazil.
As bad as all that is, ideological extremism is the least revealing part
of this charade. This massive coalition of parties now aligned behind
Alckmin is designed to ensure that he controls the bulk of money and
television time that Brazil’s short election cycle permits: basically to
shove Alckmin down the throats of voters with so much force, so much
money, propaganda, and establishment power, that Brazilians end
up ingesting him by involuntary reflex, the way one tricks a dog into
swallowing a bitter-tasting pill by manipulating its throat muscles.
But here’s the most stunning fact, the one that forever reveals the
Brazilian media for what it really is. The party with which Alckmin has
chosen to most closely align, Ana Amélia’s PP, is the one /most
implicated/ by the four-year-old corruption probe
sweeping the country. Of the 56 elected federal lawmakers affiliated
with this party, 31 of them – more than half! – have criminal corruption
charges currently pending against them.
In order to run for President as an anti-corruption outsider,/even
Bolsonaro///had to leave this sewer of bribery and theft masquerading as
a political party. While Amélia is not one of the indicted, Alckmin’s
victory will sweep her and her fundamentally criminal party along with
her into the highest levels of power.
And Amélia herself is no beacon of ethical leadership: after devoting
her journalism to defending the dictatorship, she got her political
start when she was hired for a full-time, no-show job by her
pro-dictatorship Senator-husband, at the same time that she worked
full-time as a “journalist” churning out pro-dictatorship agitprop. And
Alckmin himself, just by the way, stands accused
of having received millions of dollars in illegal, unreported funds from
oligarchs to fund his prior campaigns.
So this is the organized crime ring that is poised to return to
political power, carried on the backs of the media groups and
self-styled serious Globo News TV political experts who have spent the
last several years prancing around like ethics-demanding peacocks,
delivering righteous speeches about the evils of corruption and the
supreme urgency of stopping it.
So we are now about to witness the revolting spectacle of the very
same Globo stars and centrist political columnists who demanded the
removal of an elected President due to trivial budgetary tricks, march
in unison to empower two of the most corrupt political parties in Latin
America, one of which literally holds the record for Most Officials
Indicted by the Lava Jato Corruption Probe.
_The vital point_ that U.S., British and western European elites – still
traumatized by and incapable of explaining Trump, Brexit and the rise of
über-nationalistic parties – have spent two years desperately evading is
now also more vivid than ever in Brazil. Authoritarianism does not
sprout up randomly. Demagogues cannot thrive when political institutions
are healthy, just and equitable.
Threats to liberal democracy and the erosion of political liberties are
possible only when the population loses faith, trust and confidence in
institutions of authority. That is when societies become vulnerable to
appeals by those who threaten – or who promise – to burn it all down.
That is when media outlets and experts lose their ability to warn the
public of lies and dangers: because the public, for good reason, sees
those institutions and those experts not as guardians against dangers,
deceit and suffering but as prime perpetrators of them.
When the population sees those authorities as the author of their
suffering, then denunciations of Trump, Brexit, Marine LePen and
Bolsonaro are not just ineffective but counter-productive. The more
someone is hated by the once-elevated-but-now-despised precincts of
elite authority, the more attractive their targets of scorn become.
The elite factions in the U.S, the U.K. and democracies throughout
Europe have been learning this lesson the hard way. And now, so, too,
are Brazilian elites. Behavior like what we are now witnessing –
coalescing behind a monumentally corrupt coalition, whose only purpose
is to maintain and extend the old, corrupt order, after having spent
years pretending that they wanted the opposite – is precisely why they
have lost all credibility and authority to stop true threats to democracy.
If Brazilian media, financial and political elites want to understand
why Brazilian democracy is rapidly unraveling, their time is not best
spent staring at, dissecting and denouncing Bolsonaro. Far more useful
in seeing the true causes of Brazil’s plight would be a very large mirror.
After they’re done using it, they can pass it to their North American
and European elite counterparts, who, reflected in it, will also see the
real sources of the anti-democratic, authoritarian trends they spend all
their time impotently denouncing.
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